â€¢ Says 14 states have forwarded names of 20 wealthiest individuals in each of their state
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, has expressed confidence in the viability of the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which grants a nine months amnesty to Nigerians who have not paid their income taxes to come forward to do so without being penalised, saying several corporates and individuals have started to come forward to make enquiries on how they can pay their back taxes and regularise their status.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY, Fowler said since Acting President Yemi Osinbajo signed the Executive Order on VAIDS almost four weeks ago, the FIRS has been besieged with enquiries from corporates and individuals for information on how they can pay their backlog of unpaid taxes.
â€œYes, we have been receiving a lot of requests from corporates and individuals who want to come forward and pay their taxes during the nine months window.
â€œThey are also seeking to take advantage of the 29 per cent waiver they could get under the amnesty window, so they are asking for information on how they can get their assessment.
â€œI think in the next 30 days, we will begin to see some of these individuals and corporates who may have sorted out their audits and assessment coming forward to pay their taxes through the banks,â€ he said.
In order to keep the Nigerian public informed on the progress made through VAIDS, Fowler added that his agency would issue monthly updates on the success of the scheme, but he was reluctant to state if the FIRS would publish the revenue that has been paid to the treasury.
â€œWe intend to publish monthly updates to keep the public informed on VAIDS, but we have not yet worked out whether we will provide information on the monies that have been paid to the federal government.â€
He further disclosed that a few corporates, which were already undergoing audits before the launch of VAIDS, had come forward to ask if they could take advantage of the nine months amnesty terminating on March 31, 2018, but the FIRS has informed them that they would not be accommodated under VAIDS.
â€œThere are a few corporates that we decided to audit and we had already gone halfway through before VAIDS. Now they have asked to be accommodated under VAIDS but we said no, we told them that they lost the opportunity to get the waiver,â€ he explained.
The FIRS boss further disclosed that his agency was in possession of information from 14 states on the 20 wealthiest individuals and corporate bodies in each of their states and was waiting for them to come forward.
â€œYou will recall that during the launch of VAIDS, the acting president had said Nigeria has a taxable class of no fewer than 69 million people, but only 14 million are currently in the tax net.
â€œThe acting president had also revealed that only 214 taxpayers, irrespective of status, pay N20 million or more annually, while about 900 taxpayers pay N10 million per annum, and that all the 214 that pay N20 million or more are based in Lagos, while out of the 900 paying N10 million, all but two are based outside Lagos.
â€œWhat this shows is that there are several high net worth companies and individuals nationwide that are not paying taxes.
â€œSo 14 states have provided us with information on the 20 wealthiest individuals and companies in each of their states, and we expect these people to come forward. Should they fail to take advantage of the amnesty period, they will be made to face the music,â€ he said.
On the informal sector, Fowler acknowledged that there are several individuals and businesses in the informal sector that do not pay personal income taxes, noting that the FIRS intends to work back the assessment of such businesses or persons on the basis of their assets.
â€œThe FIRS will simply work back the assessment of such individuals and businesses by identifying their assets such as landed property, cars, plants and equipment, factories, etc, to get them into the tax net,â€ he explained.
Fowler added that Nigerians with assets overseas would also be targeted, recalling that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had said that the federal government already has in its possession the list of persons and corporates with holdings abroad.
â€œThere will be no hiding place for anyone and we are optimistic that we will meet the $1 billion revenue target through VAIDS.
â€œOn sustainability going forward, that is after the VAIDS, we are also very optimistic and do not envisage a problem because once persons or corporate entities are captured in the tax net, they can easily be called upon to pay their taxes annually,â€ he said.